Who is Liable for an Accident in an Uber?
Ride-Sharing arrangements, like Lyft and Uber, have become a popular alternative to taxis since Governor John Hickenlooper signed into law a bill authorizing ride-sharing services.
Following the signing, Governor John Hickenlooper released a statement stating “Colorado is once again in the vanguard in promoting innovation and competition while protecting consumers and public safety”.
Colorado was the first state to legislatively embrace ride-sharing services. Now Uber and Lyft drivers are available for fares throughout Denver and the surrounding areas, including Lakewood, Boulder, Wheat Ridge, Arvada, Aurora, Englewood, Littleton, Commerce City, Westminster, Thornton, and Centennial.
These ride-sharing companies have created a serious problem regarding liability for occupants and other drivers following an accident.
Problems with Uber
Uber drivers have the same propensity to get into automobile accidents as any other driver. Unlike taxi drivers, Uber drivers do not have any special training or continuing education to transport passengers.
What makes ridesharing arrangements, like Uber, problematic is there is no clear determination of liability. This is for two reasons.
1. Uber is not a transportation company. Per the Uber Terms and Conditions (last updated January 2, 2016), Uber is a technology platform that allows an individual to arrange transportation services.
By using an Uber service, the rider and driver acknowledges “Uber does not provide transportation or logistic services or function as a transportation carrier”. By defining itself as a “technology platform” rather than a transportation company, Uber attempts to escape liability and place liability for accidents on the Uber driver.
Many states have had issues with Uber defining itself as a “technology platform” rather than a transportation service, because Uber operates in a similar manner as a taxi dispatch service. Uber has certain requirements for a driver to use his or her vehicle as an Uber driver. Uber then matches the driver with the passenger. Uber then distributes payment to the driver.
2. Uber drivers are independent contractors not employees. While this distinction might not matter to the ordinary consumer. This distinction is legally significant. Generally, an employer is liable for negligent acts of an employee but not an independent contractor.
The classification of Uber drivers as an independent contractor further distances Uber from liability following an accident. Under normal circumstances, an automobile accident is considered a negligent act. If Uber drivers were employees, Uber would be liable for the damage occasioned during an automobile accident while the driver is working.
Insurance Coverage Provided By Uber
As of July 2014, Uber provides the following coverage:
1. $50,000/$100,000/$25,000 of contingent coverage between trips: Uber provides insurance protection when the driver is between trips. This means so long as the Uber driver is available and waiting for another fare, Uber will cover up to $50,000 bodily injury per individual per accident with a total of $100,000, and $25,000 property damage. This coverage is only available when the driver’s personal auto insurance declines to pay or pays zero.
2. $1 million of liability coverage per incident: Uber holds a commercial insurance policy with $1 million of coverage per incident. This covers the Uber driver’s liability to third parties from the moment a driver accepts a passenger to the conclusion of the trip. This coverage does not apply when the driver is waiting and available for fares.
3. $1 million of uninsured/underinsured motorist bodily injury coverage per incident: In the event of an accident with an uninsured or underinsured vehicle (driver does not have the state minimum coverage) or a hit and run, Uber offers $1 million of bodily injury coverage per incident. This coverage covers passengers injured if another driver causes the accident.
What Happens to the “Other Driver”
A first glance, it appears that Uber’s insurance policy is sufficient, but upon closer inspection it is obvious that a huge gap exists.
· Uber AND the Uber driver’s personal insurance may deny the claim: Often Uber’s insurance will deny the claim. This forces the Uber driver to file the claim with his or her personal auto insurance company.
Most personal auto insurance policies do not cover use of a personal vehicle as a business. So because the Uber driver was using his or her vehicle as a business, the personal auto insurance company will likely deny the claim as well.
· The accident might result in catastrophic injury or death: Uber offers $1 million of liability coverage during a fare and $50,000 bodily injury up to $100,000 when the driver is between trips. Depending on the type of injury sustained or in the case of death, these figures are not sufficient.
For example, the loss of a limb is costly both medically and personally. Depending on the facts, the $1 million in coverage may not be sufficient long term. Following an amputation or loss of a limb an individual has several long term costs, including medical treatment, surgery, medications, physical therapy, long-term rehabilitation, and prosthetics.
In these cases, the “other driver” is often forced to turn to the courts to be made whole following an accident with a ride-sharing driver. “The other driver” incurs many costs as a result of the accident, including loss wages, medical costs, estimated cost of future medical procedures, and pain and suffering. The most effective way is to file suit against the ride-sharing company directly.
Pursuing a law suit against a ridesharing company like Uber or Lyft will be a complex process. It is important to have an experienced personal injury attorney fighting on your behalf. Jennifer Donaldson is an honest and dedicated personal injury attorney located in Denver, Colorado.
She has over twenty five years of complex personal injury experience. She proudly represents clients throughout Boulder County and the surrounding areas, including Denver, Lakewood, Wheat Ridge, Arvada, Aurora, Englewood, Littleton, Commerce City, Westminster, Thornton, Centennial, and Boulder.
Contact Attorney Jennifer Donaldson for an honest and confidential consultation about your ride-sharing accident at (303) 458–5000 or (866) 458–5008. She will help you navigate the complex process of pursuing damages following a ridesharing accident.